Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

The Polar Express is one of my favorite children's Christmas stories because it's about trains and the idea of believing in something. This Christmas I've been asking people if they actually remember believing in Santa Claus or Father Christmas as he was in my childhood. Every person says they can remember believing even giving specific example of things they did.

Father Christmas always put my brother's and my Christmas presents in two pillow cases at the foot of our beds and I can remember so clearly peeking over the covers to see if it was there on Christmas day morning. It always was, of course, and I remember so clearly marvelling at Father Christmas's remarkable abilities. Exactly when I no longer believed I don't remember but it was quite a significant stage in my growth and development. I always remind teachers of young children that it's a good idea when teaching science to remember the conceptual limitations of children who still believe in Santa.

My first electric train set was my best ever Christmas present when I was 8, I think: a Hornby Dublo three rail outfit that grew over successive Christmases and birthdays to cover an 8ft x 4ft table. I remember being mesmerized by the smell of the new toys in their boxes. My brother and I and our dad and uncles spent many an hour building and playing with that train set.
Perhaps this is why even today one of my favorite relaxation activities is to watch old videos of trains on YouTube like this one narrated by John Betjeman, the poet laureate of England for many years. We are indeed products of our childhood. I now live next to the railway line in Richmond and still get a kick out of watching the train go by even if it is no longer pulled by a steam engine. I firmly believe trains are the future of our transport system.

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